And Psalm 32:11 advises us to “Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous ones; And shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart.”
In the news coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to the United States, we’ve seen crowds shout for JOY! At sports events, we see the crowd shout when a spectacular play is made; people surge to their feet and roar. At rock concerts, fans shout to the point of hysteria.
But this spontaneous shouting out of people of every race, age, and even religion, in the presence of an elderly man who walks hesitatingly, and who speaks gently, is unusual and heartening. It’s supernatural.
I was in Chicago decades ago to wave at the former beloved Pope John Paul II, as he passed in his Popemobile on his way to celebrate Mass in Grant Park. We were packed in like sardines. I thrust my head through the crooked arm of a Knight of Columbus in full regalia — hat, cape, sword — as the Pope passed, and was rewarded by a glimpse of his sweet, joyous smile.
I was just 14 or so, and that sight and that Mass were life changing. I wrote to the Knights of Columbus soon after, sharing that I felt called to a religious vocation of some sort. The response was a lovely, gentle urging to focus on my studies and to pray to God, who would show me my vocation in time. That vocation unfolded as a wife and mother, but for my entire adult life, I’ve also written about the needs of our missionary church — first in America, and now globally.
So when I see Pope Francis move about so joyfully, embrace and interact with every imaginable type of person, from members of Congress, to the disabled along his route, I know that many hidden actions are taking place in the hearts of those who see them — because he is our Peter. And although people also like to judge him for what he does and does not say, we have to trust and remember: he is our Peter and is guided by the Holy Spirit. And so we, people of the Holy Spirit, can listen to his talks before the U.N., at the September 11th memorial in New York, and to families in Philadelphia, being assured that there is a special message in his words to each of us.
But the overwhelming message beams from his joyful face. And we can all be glad and shout for joy in our spirit, that we have an earthly shepherd that reflects our heavenly one.
Through my years of meeting missionaries in all corners of the United States, and through my friendship with missionaries in the Third World, I have seen a Holy Spirit joy reflected in their faces, too, and in the faces of those whom they serve. In my early 20’s, I fell more in love with my faith, through the joy that I experienced in the presence of these humble missionaries. So it’s wonderful that we have a Holy Father who exudes humility, peace, mercy, and gladness. Praise God for Him! Let’s remember to keep him in prayer, as he asks.
Copyright 2015 Marianna Bartholomew.
Photo by Marianna Bartholomew. All rights reserved.
This piece is featured as a Missionary Moment on Deacon Tom and Dee Fox’s SQPN-Affiliated Catholic Vitamins Show, “G, For Gladness.”